I’ve been reading the same novel for a ridiculously long time. Months and months. In my defense, it is over 700 pages. It’s called, Three Daughters. It takes place in a village near Jerusalem starting in the late 1800’s. I’m nearing the end of the book, and it’s now in the 1940’s.
The book goes into amazing detail of the life of one daughter after another. The beauty of the third daughter is remarkable . . . I mean, the author remarks on it repeatedly. Besides being beautiful, she’s smart, pleasant, considerate, loving, trusting . . . I mean, who wouldn’t love her? Most people do. The only one who doesn’t is her cousin, who isn’t beautiful . . . she could have some of the other attributes, but her jealousy blinds her and makes her a nasty booger.
It’s too bad, because do you ever notice how someone who isn’t necessarily naturally, physically beautiful, can become more beautiful-looking if you get to know them, and they’re beautiful on the inside? Well, I suppose the opposite is true. I suppose it’s because, when we find someone to be ugly on the inside we look for their flaws. When we become fond of someone, we look for the positive things about them.
The cousin’s envy made her even less beautiful. I focus on being content, even joyful, with what I have. But, I have been guilty of looking around, and feeling frustrated that I don’t have what others have, especially when I tell myself I “deserve” to have more because of my experience, hard work, education level, or when I fool myself into thinking I’m a better person.
Do you know what that kind of thinking brings me? Misery.
We’ve been covering Exodus at church over the last few months. The Pastor was going over the ten commandments, and as I have been thinking about envy, I’ve thought of this commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17 (American Standard Version).
I’ve been thinking about how God often gives us direction so we can bring other people to Him – to represent Him better, and for us to learn to put our trust in Him. Often, the direction is hard to understand, because it’s about our eternal lives, and it’s hard for us to think in those terms. But, I feel like the ten commandments were given, at least in part, for our own good while we’re living here on Earth.
I understand, a theologian may say the ten commandments were to the Jews, and we have to be careful of how we interpret scripture written to the Jews and not to the Gentiles. But, most of the ten commandments are also referenced in the New Testament.
I think about the following commandment: “ “Honor your father and your mother” Exodus 20:12 (American Standard Version). At first, it seems this is for our parents’ sake, but the verse continues, “that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” So, it seems that it’s actually for our own good, right here, right now.
I think this is true about coveting what others have. Wanting what we don’t have only leads us to act and feel ugly, and that’s not the path to a joyful life.